RACV Drive School teaches more people to drive each year than any other school in Australia, so its 105 instructors know a thing or two about surviving the learner game. Read on for tips and advice that will help smooth your path to P-plates.
Take your time: Don’t advance too quickly. A bad experience in an environment your young driver wasn’t ready for can ruin their confidence and set progress back months. Follow the ‘4 Stages of Learning to Drive’ that come with the VicRoads Log Book and tick off the competencies as each has been repeatedly achieved.
The PlayStation effect: Your first-time driver may have only used pedals on a PlayStation game and have no idea how sensitive the accelerator and brake pedals can be. Give them time to feel comfortable with the pedals before taking off for the first time.
Point it out: A person will steer to where they are looking. Especially learners. If a parent says “watch the parked car”, it’s guaranteed to make them head for it. Point to where you want them to go.
Mix it up: Get your young driver to experience all possible scenarios while you’re there to help – include short and long drives, regional and metro including CBD. Add complexity such as noisy passengers, music and varied weather, and drive different cars including front and rear and all-wheel drive.
Talk about it: Make road safety a discussion point around the table when the news focuses on another collision or a new vehicle safety option. Don’t underestimate the importance of such discussions.
Don’t change: Almost all learners slow down to do lane changes. Get them on to a main road and tell them: “We are not going to do a lane change, but I want you to tell me when it’s safe to do so”. This makes it easier to maintain a steady speed as they know they are not actually going to do a change, and breaks the stress into two parts.
Do what I do: Lead by example. Young drivers mimic our behaviour and will drive in a similar manner, particularly once on their probationary licence. But they don’t have the depth of knowledge, skill and experience to survive an error in judgement.
Move on up: As your learner progresses, move them on to more challenging routes that are more than ‘just a drive’ to help them build confidence and replicate the conditions they will face as a licensed driver.
Teachers, you don’t know what you don’t know: So get professional lessons to introduce your learner to driving and help you work through key milestones so that the 120 hours are meaningful.